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(en) Australia, Brisbane - May Day Reclaim the Streets

From Takver <shevek@telstra.com>
Date Thu, 1 May 2003 20:27:54 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

> May Day in Brisbane
Serious action by the Queensland Police. The Police Commisioner sends
150 uniformed cops, 12 plain clothes police, Special Operations, and the
Traffic Response Unit, with 2 buses, 14 marked police cars, 4 unmarked
police cars, 4 tow trucks and a police helicopter to help Reclaim the
Streets people celebrate May Day. 150 people in fancy dress with flags,
music, dancing and singing helped ensure we all had a good time.
The police presence was extreme overkill. Maybe someone has been
earning a bit of extra money telling the Police great big porkies about
what was planned? I hope they are a long way away from Brisbane because
someone is going to have to do some fast talking about why the Brisbane
Police have just blown the overtime budget, and several thousand
dollars, helping a small group of hippies, ferals and other
troublemakers to celebrate May Day.

So what are we doing celebrating May Day with the Brisbane Police?
Well, we read the little yellow notice: a combination dance party and
blockade: reclaim the streets. What a great way to spend May Day, we
thought! An autonomous, do it yourself, protest\celebration for the
[extra]ordinary people's day! Sure the Trades Hall are holding a
'proper' protest, with a permit, on Monday, but we wanted to do
something on our special Day. So about 3pm we rock up to Raymond Park.
About 3.10 a handful of people turn up. Then three police cars and
eight police. They walk over to the people sitting on the grass. How is
it that protesters are instantly recognisable? I don't know why but
they are! The next thing is some poor bugger, the only one wearing a
suit and tie, is having to unpack the contents of his decorated combi
all over the footpath. Nobody else pays any attention. They are
swinging on the swings, sitting on the grass, having a good time. After
about twenty minutes the cops don't find what they are looking for, give
up and go away.

So we all sit around on the grass some more. A well organised young
woman is handing out dress ups. Who wants the radioactive rabbits ears?
All three of them, bright pink and yellow! Some lucky young man spends
the next three hours as a three eared example of the excesses of science
and imagination! So after a while someone says, who wants to reclaim
the streets? So some of us get up and meander up the grass towards the
street, and stop. A few off us follow. Someone hands out hooters and
gives the kids balloons. One person has an orange bean bag. A fat
woman has brought her own folding chairs. Someone is drumming. After a
while the rest of the group dawdle over. A lot of us sit down on the
grass. Time to relax and have a chat. More music. More dress ups.
There is no hurry, we are having a good time.

A couple of blokes in expensive sports shoes, shorts, dark t-shirts and
short back and sides sit down next to us. 'Where are we going?', they
ask the woman sitting next to them. Who cares? Well these two plain
clothes police would obviously like to know but they are out of luck.
'Well, we just wait till someone looks like they know where they are
going and we follow them,' was the unhelpful reply.

We now have 6 bikes, one skateboard, several strollers [ baby optional],
a mobile platform with PA and music gear, lots of flags, five dogs and
about one hundred and fifty men, women, children, babies and mutant
rabbits. After quite a while [no hurry, we are having a good time] a
rush of energy goes through the crowd. We are on our feet and off into
Main Street, Woollongabba. The police suddenly appear [where did they
come from?] and, waving madly, try to keep us together. Only a couple
of blocks down the road, under the Telstra Building and outside
McRubbish we are surrounded. Where did all the Police come from? We
are not selfish though, we are happy to share our party, but the police
are just not in the right mood. Too much serious organisation is a real
bummer. And we can't get to where someone thought maybe we would party.
So we stop there on the corner and be spontaneous. People come out
from the flats to join us. 'I can't hear my TV with all the racket you
are making.' Yeah but we are better than TV and we get to write the
script. There on the street we are having a good time, drumming,
singing, dancing. Someone is playing ring a ring a rosie. Lots of
More police turn up. Gee they could have given us a hand with the set
up if they were planning to join in the fun. So the Reclaim the Street
mob are on the street. The police, who now outnumber the fancy dress
mob, form a circle around them. Then the curious onlookers and
supporters form a ring around them. It looks a bit like a gilbert and
sullivan performance. It is like a folk dance, but the police do not
get to sing.

No traffic, the streets are reclaimed. On the streets the hippies and
ferals sing and dance some more. The police stand there. There is no
hurry, we are having a good time. A local Murri man starts a speech
claiming prior ownership by indigenous people and welcoming us to their
country. Someone gets up to talk about globalisation and mammouth
company profits. It is about 5.25pm.

Maybe the police have run out of patience. Maybe they weren't having a
good time. A pity. Anyway one of the police, using a mike, identifies
herself as Gail Hogan and informs us we are committing an unlawful act
and if we do not disperse we may be arrested. Nearby some RTS people
overhear the Special Operations Group explain what is going to happen.
They were giving instructions to police to move people from the
intersection. Anyone who did not cooperate would be arrested. 'If it
is a small group lift them if necessary. If it is a big group take the
van over to them.' At this point it looks like mass arrests. The
police had brought up reinforcements and seriously outnumbered the

Anyway, Gail Hogan is talking over the Murri speaker. People call out,
'Show some respect.' And what do you know, she gives it up and waits
her turn. The next time she gets all the way through reading the riot
act. There is some fast talking. Unless you were right up close you
couln't hear what was happening. A deal is struck. The dancing and
singing mob move off Main Street onto a side street, maybe Linton
Street. By this time they are not letting people in or out. If you are
surrounded by coppers you have to stay put. No worries. No hurry, we
are having a good time.

More singing and dancing. By now it is getting dark. Music, drumming,
dancing, lots to entertain the fifty or so onlookers and supporters
standing on the footpath. 50 happy ferals, hippies and assorted
troublemakers sing and dance in the street. There is some impromptu
street theatre. The one hundred and fifty police officers are a bit
less tense and humourless. We sit around a bit more. It looks like no
arrests after all. Oh, except for the bloke who lit up his weed before
it got dark. Lets' hope someone went and bailed him out. After a
while, no hurry we are having a good time, we set off again in the dark.
Police, onlookers and troublemakers set off down the side road back to
the park. In the dark it is hard to see who is who. Just a couple of
hundred tired people strung out along the road. Some one is singing
Kookaburra songs. There is just time to go and have a wee before we set
off home. As we go we can hear people sitting in the park singing.
There is no hurry, we have had a great day, a May Day in Brisbane.

see accompanying photos at:

Other Australian May Day May 1st reports:
Melbourne May Day report:

Perth Mayday report:

In solidarity

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